Years after Outkast’s inevitable fizzling, Antwan André Patton could just pull rank as the unsung half of one of hip-hop’s best duos if he wanted to. But rather than take his honorable discharge and live out the rest of his years in rap retirement, the magnanimous Daddy Fat Sax continues to report for duty, and as long as he isn’t resting on his sticky green laurels, the people will follow.
Vicious Lies And Dangerous Rumors, his third solo work counting Speakerboxxx, looked like it was on the fast track for release; by the time the long-delayed Sir Lucious Left Foot dropped in 2010, Patton was already claiming to be deep into a new record. But it ended up taking two more years—a relatively short wait for Outkast fans—and in a late-November press junket, Big Boi admitted he was applying finishing touches just a day before. In typical fashion, he exuded positivity, talking about his family, his joy in collaboration, and dubbed it “a feel-good record.”
On these counts, Vicious Lies delivers. Big Boi might have already seen his career peak, but he certainly is at his most selfless, honest, and exploratory now. The record is nearly top-heavy with collaborations—Little Dragon’s Yukimi Nagano and Phantogram’s Sarah Barthel are the album’s ubiquitous muses, popping up on at least five album cuts. Vicious Lies is spare on Dungeon Family cameos, the most notable of which is a rugged 16 bars from Killer Mike on the hilariously conceived “Thom Pettie.”
Sure, there are mistakes. Big Boi adorably cites his kids as his key focus group for the record, so it’s a fair bet that his 11-year-old is the reason the Wavves/B.o.B.-featuring “Shoes For Running” didn’t get nixed. He is also obsessed with rapping about this new thing called “the Internet,” which can get pretty tiresome. Finally, listeners don’t even have to imagine how much better “Mama Told Me” would have been with Little Dragon at the helm instead of Kelly Rowland, because, well, we already know.
But for an album that’s already revealed six of its tracks online, there’s a surprising amount to uncover. Some of the happiest surprises (Jai Paul, UGK, and Theophilus London) are served on the deluxe addendum, and crucial life-givers, like a verse from ASAP Rocky, were tacked on last-minute. Most of all, though, Big Boi is enjoying himself and still advancing a quality product, and 20 years into a rap career, that’s a victory.